Savvy people who pay attention in today’s world are well aware of how easy it is for criminals to steal your identity. It’s easy to blow right past the idea that your ID is at risk because Identity theft isn’t something you can see. However, more than thirty-one million people had their personal information stolen in the last two years. To put that in perspective, there are 327.2 million people in the USA as of 2018. That means about one in ten people suffered from this sort of theft. That’s more than most people realize. Identity theft is a serious business, and criminals get smarter every year. Here are 10 Identity Theft Techniques to Watch Out for in 2020.
1. The Internet of Things
No doubt about it, the Internet of Things (IoT) is fantastic. We love being able to open our doors with full hands and check our security cameras when we’re at work. The trouble with the IoT, is the “I.” Devices that connect to the internet are inherently at risk because hackers can get to them if they break into your connection. Considering all the data breaches in recent years, your passwords online are far from safe. It may seem silly to worry about whether a talking box on your counter that can order pizza is going to give away your credit card information, but it can certainly happen. Your best defense is better security on your home internet. Always set a password, change it regularly, and don’t keep it written down anywhere easy to reach.
2. Shopping Cart Viruses
If you’re cruising the internet, hunting for deals, then you are using online shopping carts. Much of the time, there’s no problem with that. However, savvy internet thieves can use programs like Magecart to ‘formjack’ the info you input to make your purchases. From your home address and delivery dates to your credit card, PayPal, and bank info, even your connected email addresses may be at risk. Set up push notifications with your bank and credit cards. Check your balances daily and always report suspicious charges immediately.
3. Smart TV’s Are Not (Necessarily) Safe TV’s
Like the IoT, many new Smart TVs are a security risk. When you buy movies, connect emails and online accounts, or otherwise include your home internet into your TV watching, your TV may be a risk. Especially if your newest TV has microphones and cameras that can watch you, you should be sure to check out the specs on your ‘tube.’ Change manufacturer passwords o secure passwords, and change them at least every season.
4. The IRS, Social Security, & Your Credit Card Company are (Not) Calling You
People who haven’t yet gotten a scam call from “The IRS,” about a tax debt, or the one where the recorded voice says the Social Security Administration is going to cancel your SS number are few and far between. Many of us are savvy to the tricks, but you should also keep an eye out for credit increase scams. Your credit card company isn’t going to call and solicit you to give you higher credit over the phone. Hang up and report these calls to the government. Block the numbers and keep naive friends and relatives informed.
5. RFID & Chip Card Readers
Perhaps you ran out and got an RFID blocking wallet, or even had your company shut down the chip function in your debit and credit cards. That was smart, though less effective than you might hope. However, false chip readers are a huge problem, as well. Especially at gas pumps that are out of sight from attendants and clerks, smart, sneaky thieves can put fake chip readers in to steal your money and information. Always pay somewhere that you can see the clerk and get a receipt.
6. Synthetic Identity Fraud
Checking your credit report is something all adults should do at least monthly. Unfortunately, when you see nothing wrong and breathe a sigh of relief, you may be setting yourself up. Don’t get comfortable. Synthetic ID thieves use a combination of other people’s data and made-up ‘facts’ to create fake IDs. They can buy cars, take out loans, and obtain credit cards easily. The breach doesn’t show up immediately. Sometimes they even build the fake ID a good credit rating so they can do more damage down the road with larger loans. Crime syndicates are behind this more often than individuals. Children are especially vulnerable to this form of theft. More on child Identity fraud later.
7. Medicare (Doesn’t Have) DNA Kits
The latest in clever government official imposters is the Medicare DNA scam. Your Medicare provider will not call you, ask for personal information, and send you a DNA kit. They don’t have them for the general public. They don’t sell them or give them away. Don’t fall for it. If you need DNA testing, seek it out yourself through a reputable company.
8. Social ID Theft aka Catfishing
Taking another person’s pictures, names, and other personal data to set up false social media accounts is sometimes called Catfishing. Sadly, conning daters into going out with a different person isn’t the only damage a fake can do. From soliciting funds to getting personal data from friends and relatives, Social ID Theft is another big business. Don’t give out personal data online, even if it seems harmless. Even sharing your location is a bad plan. Keep your friends updated IRL on anything that isn’t your breakfast and funny gifs.
9. Child Identity Theft
Kids are especially vulnerable to ID theft because no one is checking their credit. A stunning 25%, that’s one in four kids, will experience this problem before turning eighteen. Consider placing a credit freeze on your kids. You can also add a fraud alert for them through Experian, and get a good family ID theft plan.
10. Estate Identity Theft
As bizarre as this sounds, dead people are having their identities stolen as well. Criminals can collect data, drain accounts, and snag retirement benefits before anyone notices. When you’re grieving, you probably aren’t going to think about estate identity theft, but you should. Often families don’t even find out the theft occurred until inheritance is supposed to be delivered. To avoid problems, you should immediately get copies of the death certificate. Inform credit bureaus and close their accounts immediately. It may be hard, but it’s not as hard as finding out you have to pay off debt your loved one never even acquired while they were alive.
As the world becomes an ever more connected place thanks to the internet, cell phones, IoT devices, and other means, criminals are changing with the times as well. The best thing you can do to prevent problems is to stay informed. Get identity theft protection for everyone in your family, even new babies. Change all your passwords, and avoid unnecessary information exchanges. Check your bank accounts daily or weekly, and your credit score monthly.